How We Speak

A Rainbow of Expressions–Revisited

DSC00231So I’m watching the news the other night, and a man expressing concern for a homeless man, who lives by an alligator-infested river, says he’s afraid for him because alligators might “it im.”

The uninitiated may read this phrase and go, “Huh, it im?”

Yes, yes, “it im”.

Not sure what this means?

Alright, imagine yuh de deep-rural Jamaica. Picture plenty greenery, red dirt an’ ting.

Now, imagine yuh tan up side a waa river whey have nuff alligata.

Can you see di riva?

Can you see di alligators swimming around, hungrily?

Now, imagine a man is in the water, washing his shirt, socks, marina and what have you.

Question: are you afraid an alligator may snatch him up and “it im”?

Riiiiight! Eat him. How easy was that to decipher?

To my non-Jamaican friends, the next time you’re part of a conversation among patois-speaking locals in deep-rural Jamaica, tune your ears good-good and try to pick up the context of the conversation. It will help you wade your way through understanding what’s being said.

And with that, I segue to 14 of the many words/phrases we Jamaicans use to describe people’s behaviour and/or appearance. They didn’t teach me this stuff in Catholic school. Like many other Jamaicans, I learned through observation.

Kunu-munu (also cunumunu or coonoo-moonoo)
usage: to describe or denote a gullible person
example: “Choo him come wid sad story, yuh buy plane ticket fi a man yuh nuh know from Adam, so-so soh? Yuh a real kunu-munu.”
translation: “Because he came with a sad story, you bought a plane ticket for a man whom you never met before, just like that? You are really gullible.”

Crebeh (or crebeh-crebeh for emphasis)
usage: to describe or denote a person who lacks refinement or social graces
example: “Look pan har a fling up har frock-tail an’ a trace off di parson! What a crebeh!
translation: “Look at her flinging up her frock-tail and cursing the parson! What a lack of refinement!”

Cramouchin (also kumuujin and countless other spellings)
usage: to describe sly, miserly behaviour
example: “Imagine, Theophilus wid him cramouchin self drink off Enid porridge, tief di loaf a bread from har fridge-top an’ run gone before shi come back a di kitchen.”
translation: “Imagine, sly, miserly Theophilus drank all of Enid’s porridge, stole a loaf of bread from the top of her fridge and ran away before she came back to the kitchen.”

usage: to describe fraudulent activity
example: “Yuh gi Percy di whole a di settee money, an’ all now di settee cyan reach? Dat soun’ like bandulu business.”
translation: “You gave Percy full payment for the settee, and, up until now, the settee hasn’t reached? That sounds like a fraudulent business.”

usage: to describe or denote a showy person who has recently attained wealth or social status.
example: “Dis hurry-come-up bredda a flash him money an’ a twang like him betta dan we.
translation: “This showy brother, who has recently attained wealth, is proudly displaying his money and twanging like he is better than us.”

usage: a term of endearment, especially from a man to a woman with whom he is in love.
example: “Yuh can fetch mi a tall glass a ice-water from di fridge, mi dawlin’ putus?”
translation: “Can you fetch me a tall glass of cold water from the fridge, my darling putus?”

usage: to describe or denote a lanky person
example: “Dis langgulala man pants-foot de a him ankle like him a expeck flood.”
translation: “This lanky man’s pant hems are at his ankles like he’s expecting a flood.”

usage: to describe someone who is boastful and proud
example: “Missa Lee mussi have bout 40 degree from University College. Nuh wonda him walk so cockaty.
translation: “Mr. Lee must have about 40 degrees from University College. No wonder he walks so proudly and boastfully.”

usage: with regards to behaviour, it means uncouth, lacking good manners.
example: “Likkle pickney, a really mi yuh a feisty wid so? Yuh nuh si mi a big s’mady to yuh? Fresh!”
translation: “Child, are you really being feisty to me? Can’t you see I am an adult to you? Uncouth!”

usage: to describe someone who is stubborn and won’t listen to good advice
example: “Hard-ears Tekeisha, look how much time mi tell yuh fi tro oil in di drum-pan. Now, maskita a breed-up breed-up inna di water.”
translation: “Stubborn Tekeisha, look how many times I’ve told you to throw oil in the drum. Now, mosquitoes are breeding plentifully in the water.”

usage: to describe the last-born child of a family
example: “Yes, mi dear, Petal Rose a di wash-belly fi Daffodil and Kanye.”
translation: “Yes, my dear, Petal Rose is the last-born child for Daffodil and Kanye.”

Cubbitch or Cubbidge
usage: to describe a stingy, covetous person. It is said, one’s cubbitch-hole, i.e. the hollow at the back of the neck below the base of the skull, is an indication of how greedy one is. The deeper the sink, the more covetous.
example: “Yuh cubbitch til cubbitch cyan done di way yuh cubbitch-hole deep.”
translation: “Your greed is endless based on how deep the sink in the back of your neck is.”

usage: to describe or denote a stingy, roughly mannered, unambitious person
example: “Everytime, mi ask di ole cruff, Lenny, fi Julie mango off him tree, him tell me him busy. Yet, everyday, him have time fi tan up wid shet-pan a Miss Gem back-fence a wait fi har done cook.
translation: “Everytime, I ask stingy and unambitious Lenny for Julie mangoes from his tree, he tells me he’s busy. Yet, everyday, he has time to stand with a food container at Miss Gem’s back-fence, waiting for her to finish cooking.”

Dress to puss foot (noun: Dress-puss)
usage: to describe a person who is overdressed
example: “Shaniqua, what a way yuh dress to puss foot fi go graduation ball! Tek off some a dem necklace deh before dem heng yuh.”
translation: “Shaniqua, you are way overdressed to go to the graduation ball! Take off some of those necklaces before they hang you.”

For more patois words and expressions click here, here and here.

Catch yuh next time!

Peace and love,